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Debugging GNU Emacs

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Copyright (C) 1985, 2000-2017 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
See the end of the file for license conditions.
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** Preliminaries
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This section can be skipped if you are already familiar with building
Emacs with debug info, configuring and starting GDB, and simple GDB
debugging techniques.

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*** Configuring Emacs for debugging

It is best to configure and build Emacs with special options that will
make the debugging easier.  Here's the configure-time options we
recommend (they are in addition to any other options you might need,
such as --prefix):

  CFLAGS='-O0 -g3' ./configure --enable-checking='yes,glyphs' --enable-check-lisp-object-type

The CFLAGS value is important: debugging optimized code can be very
hard.  (If the problem only happens with optimized code, you may need
to enable optimizations.  If that happens, try using -Og first,
instead of -O2, as the former will disable some optimizations that
make debugging some code exceptionally hard.)

Modern versions of GCC support more elaborate debug info that is
available by just using the -g3 compiler switch.  Try using -gdwarf-4
in addition to -g3, and if that fails, try -gdwarf-3.  This is
especially important if you have to debug optimized code.  More info
about this is available below; search for "analyze failed assertions".

The 2 --enable-* switches are optional.  They don't have any effect on
debugging with GDB, but will compile additional code that might catch
the problem you are debugging much earlier, in the form of assertion
violation.  The --enable-checking option also enables additional
functionality useful for debugging display problems; see more about
this below under "Debugging Emacs redisplay problems".

Emacs needs not be installed to be debugged, you can debug the binary
created in the 'src' directory.

*** Configuring GDB

When you debug Emacs with GDB, you should start GDB in the directory
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where the Emacs executable was made (the 'src' directory in the Emacs
source tree).  That directory has a .gdbinit file that defines various
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"user-defined" commands for debugging Emacs.  (These commands are
described below under "Examining Lisp object values" and "Debugging
Emacs Redisplay problems".)

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Starting the debugger from Emacs, via the "M-x gdb" command (described
below), when the current buffer visits one of the Emacs C source files
will automatically start GDB in the 'src' directory.

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Some GDB versions by default do not automatically load .gdbinit files
in the directory where you invoke GDB.  With those versions of GDB,
you will see a warning when GDB starts, like this:

  warning: File ".../src/.gdbinit" auto-loading has been declined by your `auto-load safe-path' set to "$debugdir:$datadir/auto-load".

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The simplest way to fix this is to add the following line to your
~/.gdbinit file:

  add-auto-load-safe-path /path/to/emacs/src/.gdbinit

There are other ways to overcome that difficulty, they are all
described in the node "Auto-loading safe path" in the GDB user manual.
If nothing else helps, type "source /path/to/.gdbinit RET" at the GDB
prompt, to unconditionally load the GDB init file.

*** Use the Emacs GDB UI front-end

We recommend using the GUI front-end for GDB provided by Emacs.  With
it, you can start GDB by typing "M-x gdb RET".  This will suggest the
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file name of the default binary to debug; if the suggested default is
not the Emacs binary you want to debug, change the file name as
needed.  Alternatively, if you want to attach the debugger to an
already running Emacs process, change the GDB command shown in the
minibuffer to say this:
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   gdb -i=mi -p PID

where PID is the numerical process ID of the running Emacs process,
displayed by system utilities such as 'top' or 'ps' on Posix hosts and
Task Manager on MS-Windows.

Once the debugger starts, open the additional windows provided by the
GDB UI, by typing "M-x gdb-many-windows RET".  (Alternatively, click
Gud->GDB-MI->Display Other Windows" from the menu bar.)  At this
point, make your frame large enough (or full-screen) such that the
windows you just opened have enough space to show the content without
horizontal scrolling.

You can later restore your window configuration with the companion
command "M-x gdb-restore-windows RET", or by deselecting "Display
Other Windows" from the menu bar.

*** Setting initial breakpoints

Before you let Emacs run, you should now set breakpoints in the code
which you want to debug, so that Emacs stops there and lets GDB take
control.  If the code which you want to debug is executed under some
rare conditions, or only when a certain Emacs command is manually
invoked, then just set your breakpoint there, let Emacs run, and
trigger the breakpoint by invoking that command or reproducing those
rare conditions.

If you are less lucky, and the code in question is run very
frequently, you will have to find some way of avoiding triggering your
breakpoint when the conditions for the buggy behavior did not yet
happen.  There's no single recipe for this, you will have to be
creative and study the code to see what's appropriate.  Some useful
tricks for that:

  . Make your breakpoint conditional on certain buffer or string
    position.  For example:

      (gdb) break foo.c:1234 if PT >= 9876

  . Set a break point in some rarely called function, then create the
    conditions for the bug, call that rare function, and when GDB gets
    control, set the breakpoint in the buggy code, knowing that it
    will now be called when the bug happens.

  . If the bug manifests itself as an error message, set a breakpoint
    in Fsignal, and when it breaks, look at the backtrace to see what
    triggers the error.

Some additional techniques are described below under "Getting control
to the debugger".

You are now ready to start your debugging session.

If you are starting a new Emacs session, type "run", followed by any
command-line arguments (e.g., "-Q") into the *gud-emacs* buffer and
press RET.

If you attached the debugger to a running Emacs, type "continue" into
the *gud-emacs* buffer and press RET.

Many variables you will encounter while debugging are Lisp objects.
These are displayed as integer values (or structures, if you used the
"--enable-check-lisp-object-type" option at configure time) that are
hard to interpret, especially if they represent long lists.  You can
use the 'pp' command to display them in their Lisp form.  That command
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displays its output on the standard error stream, which you
can redirect to a file using "M-x redirect-debugging-output".
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This means that if you attach GDB to a running Emacs that was invoked
from a desktop icon, chances are you will not see the output at all,
or it will wind up in an obscure place (check the documentation of
your desktop environment).

Additional information about displaying Lisp objects can be found
under "Examining Lisp object values" below.
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The rest of this document describes specific useful techniques for
debugging Emacs; we suggest reading it in its entirety the first time
you are about to debug Emacs, then look up your specific issues
whenever you need.

Good luck!
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** When you are trying to analyze failed assertions or backtraces, it
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is essential to compile Emacs with flags suitable for debugging.
With GCC 4.8 or later, you can invoke 'make' with CFLAGS="-Og -g3".
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With older GCC or non-GCC compilers, you can use CFLAGS="-O0 -g3".
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With GCC and higher optimization levels such as -O2, the
-fno-omit-frame-pointer and -fno-crossjumping options are often
essential.  The latter prevents GCC from using the same abort call for
all assertions in a given function, rendering the stack backtrace
useless for identifying the specific failed assertion.
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Some versions of GCC support recent versions of the DWARF standard for
debugging info, but default to older versions; for example, they could
support -gdwarf-4 compiler option (for DWARF v4), but default to
version 2 of the DWARF standard.  For best results in debugging
abilities, find out the highest version of DWARF your GCC can support,
and use the corresponding -gdwarf-N switch instead of just -g (you
will still need -g3, as in "-gdwarf-4 -g3").

** It is a good idea to run Emacs under GDB (or some other suitable
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debugger) *all the time*.  Then, when Emacs crashes, you will be able
to debug the live process, not just a core dump.  (This is especially
important on systems which don't support core files, and instead print
just the registers and some stack addresses.)

** If Emacs hangs, or seems to be stuck in some infinite loop, typing
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"kill -TSTP PID", where PID is the Emacs process ID, will cause GDB to
kick in, provided that you run under GDB.

** Getting control to the debugger
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Setting a breakpoint in a strategic place, after loading Emacs into
the debugger, but before running it, is the most efficient way of
making sure control will be returned to the debugger when you need

'Fsignal' is a very useful place to put a breakpoint in.  All Lisp
errors go through there.  If you are only interested in errors that
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would fire the Lisp debugger, breaking at 'maybe_call_debugger' is
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Another technique for get control to the debugger is to put a
breakpoint in some rarely used function.  One such convenient function
is Fredraw_display, which you can invoke at will interactively with
"M-x redraw-display RET".
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It is also useful to have a guaranteed way to return to the debugger
at any arbitrary time.  When using X, this is easy: type C-z at the
window where you are interacting with GDB, and it will stop Emacs just
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as it would stop any ordinary program.  (This doesn't work if GDB was
attached to a running Emacs process; in that case, you will need to
type C-z to the shell window from which Emacs was started, or use the
"kill -TSTP" method described below.)

When Emacs is displaying on a text terminal, things are not so easy,
so we describe the various alternatives below (however, those of them
that use signals only work on Posix systems).
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The src/.gdbinit file in the Emacs distribution arranges for SIGINT
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(C-g in Emacs on a text-mode frame) to be passed to Emacs and not give
control back to GDB.  On modern systems, you can override that with
this command:

   handle SIGINT stop nopass

After this 'handle' command, SIGINT will return control to GDB.  If
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you want the C-g to cause a quit within Emacs as well, omit the 'nopass'.
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See the GDB manual for more details about signal handling and the
'handle' command.

A technique that can work when 'handle SIGINT' does not is to store
the code for some character into the variable stop_character.  Thus,
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    set stop_character = 29

makes Control-] (decimal code 29) the stop character.
Typing Control-] will cause immediate stop.  You cannot
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use the set command until the inferior process has been started, so
start Emacs with the 'start' command, to get an opportunity to do the
above 'set' command.
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On a Posix host, you can also send a signal using the 'kill' command
from a shell prompt, like this:
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   kill -TSTP Emacs-PID

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where Emacs-PID is the process ID of Emacs being debugged.  Other
useful signals to send are SIGUSR1 and SIGUSR2; see "Error Debugging"
in the ELisp manual for how to use those.

When Emacs is displaying on a text terminal, it is useful to have a
separate terminal for the debug session.  This can be done by starting
Emacs as usual, then attaching to it from gdb with the 'attach'
command which is explained in the node "Attach" of the GDB manual.

On MS-Windows, you can alternatively start Emacs from its own separate
console by setting the new-console option before running Emacs under
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  (gdb) set new-console 1
  (gdb) run

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If you do this, then typing C-c or C-BREAK into the console window
through which you interact with GDB will stop Emacs and return control
to the debugger, no matter if Emacs displays GUI or text-mode frames.
This is the only reliable alternative on MS-Windows to get control to
the debugger, besides setting breakpoints in advance.

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** Examining Lisp object values.

When you have a live process to debug, and it has not encountered a
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fatal error, you can use the GDB command 'pr'.  First print the value
in the ordinary way, with the 'p' command.  Then type 'pr' with no
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arguments.  This calls a subroutine which uses the Lisp printer.

You can also use 'pp value' to print the emacs value directly.
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To see the current value of a Lisp Variable, use 'pv variable'.

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These commands send their output to stderr; if that is closed or
redirected to some file you don't know, you won't see their output.
This is particularly so for Emacs invoked on MS-Windows from the
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desktop shortcut.  You can use the command 'redirect-debugging-output'
to redirect stderr to a file.

Note: It is not a good idea to try 'pr', 'pp', or 'pv' if you know that Emacs
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is in deep trouble: its stack smashed (e.g., if it encountered SIGSEGV
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due to stack overflow), or crucial data structures, such as 'obarray',
corrupted, etc.  In such cases, the Emacs subroutine called by 'pr'
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might make more damage, like overwrite some data that is important for
debugging the original problem.

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Also, on some systems it is impossible to use 'pr' if you stopped
Emacs while it was inside 'select'.  This is in fact what happens if
you stop Emacs while it is waiting.  In such a situation, don't try to
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use 'pr'.  Instead, use 's' to step out of the system call.  Then
Emacs will be between instructions and capable of handling 'pr'.
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If you can't use 'pr' command, for whatever reason, you can use the
'xpr' command to print out the data type and value of the last data
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value, For example:

    p it->object

You may also analyze data values using lower-level commands.  Use the
'xtype' command to print out the data type of the last data value.
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Once you know the data type, use the command that corresponds to that
type.  Here are these commands:
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    xint xptr xwindow xmarker xoverlay xmiscfree xintfwd xboolfwd xobjfwd
    xbufobjfwd xkbobjfwd xbuflocal xbuffer xsymbol xstring xvector xframe
    xwinconfig xcompiled xcons xcar xcdr xsubr xprocess xfloat xscrollbar
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    xchartable xsubchartable xboolvector xhashtable xlist xcoding
    xcharset xfontset xfont
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Each one of them applies to a certain type or class of types.
(Some of these types are not visible in Lisp, because they exist only

Each x... command prints some information about the value, and
produces a GDB value (subsequently available in $) through which you
can get at the rest of the contents.

In general, most of the rest of the contents will be additional Lisp
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objects which you can examine in turn with the x... commands.

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Even with a live process, these x...  commands are useful for
examining the fields in a buffer, window, process, frame or marker.
Here's an example using concepts explained in the node "Value History"
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of the GDB manual to print values associated with the variable
called frame.  First, use these commands:

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  cd src
  gdb emacs
  b set_frame_buffer_list
  r -q

Then Emacs hits the breakpoint:

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  (gdb) p frame
  $1 = 139854428
  (gdb) xpr
  $2 = (struct frame *) 0x8560258
  (gdb) p *$
  $3 = {
    size = 1073742931,
    next = 0x85dfe58,
    name = 140615219,

Now we can use 'pp' to print the frame parameters:

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  (gdb) pp $->param_alist
  ((background-mode . light) (display-type . color) [...])
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The Emacs C code heavily uses macros defined in lisp.h.  So suppose
we want the address of the l-value expression near the bottom of
'add_command_key' from keyboard.c:
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  XVECTOR (this_command_keys)->contents[this_command_key_count++] = key;

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XVECTOR is a macro, so GDB only knows about it if Emacs has been compiled with
preprocessor macro information.  GCC provides this if you specify the options
'-gdwarf-N' (where N is 2 or higher) and '-g3'.  In this case, GDB can
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evaluate expressions like "p XVECTOR (this_command_keys)".

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When this information isn't available, you can use the xvector command in GDB
to get the same result.  Here is how:

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  (gdb) p this_command_keys
  $1 = 1078005760
  (gdb) xvector
  $2 = (struct Lisp_Vector *) 0x411000
  (gdb) p $->contents[this_command_key_count]
  $3 = 1077872640
  (gdb) p &$
  $4 = (int *) 0x411008

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Here's a related example of macros and the GDB 'define' command.
There are many Lisp vectors such as 'recent_keys', which contains the
last 300 keystrokes.  We can print this Lisp vector

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  p recent_keys

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But this may be inconvenient, since 'recent_keys' is much more verbose
than 'C-h l'.  We might want to print only the last 10 elements of
this vector.  'recent_keys' is updated in keyboard.c by the command
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  XVECTOR (recent_keys)->contents[recent_keys_index] = c;

So we define a GDB command 'xvector-elts', so the last 10 keystrokes
are printed by

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  xvector-elts recent_keys recent_keys_index 10
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where you can define xvector-elts as follows:

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  define xvector-elts
  set $i = 0
  p $arg0
  set $foo = $
  while $i < $arg2
  p $foo->contents[$arg1-($i++)]
  document xvector-elts
  Prints a range of elements of a Lisp vector.
  xvector-elts  v n i
  prints 'i' elements of the vector 'v' ending at the index 'n'.
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** Getting Lisp-level backtrace information within GDB

The most convenient way is to use the 'xbacktrace' command.  This
shows the names of the Lisp functions that are currently active.

If that doesn't work (e.g., because the 'backtrace_list' structure is
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corrupted), type "bt" at the GDB prompt, to produce the C-level
backtrace, and look for stack frames that call Ffuncall.  Select them
one by one in GDB, by typing "up N", where N is the appropriate number
of frames to go up, and in each frame that calls Ffuncall type this:

   p *args

This will print the name of the Lisp function called by that level
of function calling.

By printing the remaining elements of args, you can see the argument
values.  Here's how to print the first argument:

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   p args[1]

If you do not have a live process, you can use xtype and the other
x...  commands such as xsymbol to get such information, albeit less
conveniently.  For example:

   p *args

and, assuming that "xtype" says that args[0] is a symbol:


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** Debugging Emacs redisplay problems

If you configured Emacs with --enable-checking='glyphs', you can use redisplay
tracing facilities from a running Emacs session.

The command "M-x trace-redisplay RET" will produce a trace of what redisplay
does on the standard error stream.  This is very useful for understanding the
code paths taken by the display engine under various conditions, especially if
some redisplay optimizations produce wrong results.  (You know that redisplay
optimizations might be involved if "M-x redraw-display RET", or even just
typing "M-x", causes Emacs to correct the bad display.)  Since the cursor
blinking feature triggers periodic redisplay cycles, we recommend disabling
'blink-cursor-mode' before invoking 'trace-redisplay', so that you have less
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clutter in the trace.  You can also have up to 30 last trace messages dumped to
standard error by invoking the 'dump-redisplay-history' command.
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To find the code paths which were taken by the display engine, search xdisp.c
for the trace messages you see.

The command 'dump-glyph-matrix' is useful for producing on standard error
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stream a full dump of the selected window's glyph matrix.  See the function's
doc string for more details.  If you are debugging redisplay issues in
text-mode frames, you may find the command 'dump-frame-glyph-matrix' useful.
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Other commands useful for debugging redisplay are 'dump-glyph-row' and
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If you run Emacs under GDB, you can print the contents of any glyph matrix by
just calling that function with the matrix as its argument.  For example, the
following command will print the contents of the current matrix of the window
whose pointer is in 'w':
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  (gdb) p dump_glyph_matrix (w->current_matrix, 2)

(The second argument 2 tells dump_glyph_matrix to print the glyphs in
a long form.)

The Emacs display code includes special debugging code, but it is normally
disabled.  Configuring Emacs with --enable-checking='yes,glyphs' enables it.

Building Emacs like that activates many assertions which scrutinize
display code operation more than Emacs does normally.  (To see the
code which tests these assertions, look for calls to the 'eassert'
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macros.)  Any assertion that is reported to fail should be investigated.

When you debug display problems running emacs under X, you can use
the 'ff' command to flush all pending display updates to the screen.
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The src/.gdbinit file defines many useful commands for dumping redisplay
related data structures in a terse and user-friendly format:

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 'ppt' prints value of PT, narrowing, and gap in current buffer.
 'pit' dumps the current display iterator 'it'.
 'pwin' dumps the current window 'win'.
 'prow' dumps the current glyph_row 'row'.
 'pg' dumps the current glyph 'glyph'.
 'pgi' dumps the next glyph.
 'pgrow' dumps all glyphs in current glyph_row 'row'.
 'pcursor' dumps current output_cursor.

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The above commands also exist in a version with an 'x' suffix which takes an
object of the relevant type as argument.  For example, 'pgrowx' dumps all
glyphs in its argument, which must be of type 'struct glyph_row'.
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Since redisplay is performed by Emacs very frequently, you need to place your
breakpoints cleverly to avoid hitting them all the time, when the issue you are
debugging did not (yet) happen.  Here are some useful techniques for that:

 . Put a breakpoint at 'Fredraw_display' before running Emacs.  Then do
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   whatever is required to reproduce the bad display, and invoke "M-x
   redraw-display".  The debugger will kick in, and you can set or enable
   breakpoints in strategic places, knowing that the bad display will be
   redrawn from scratch.

 . For debugging incorrect cursor position, a good place to put a breakpoint is
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   in 'set_cursor_from_row'.  The first time this function is called as part of
   'redraw-display', Emacs is redrawing the minibuffer window, which is usually
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   not what you want; type "continue" to get to the call you want.  In general,
   always make sure 'set_cursor_from_row' is called for the right window and
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   buffer by examining the value of w->contents: it should be the buffer whose
   display you are debugging.

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 . 'set_cursor_from_row' is also a good place to look at the contents of a
   screen line (a.k.a. "glyph row"), by means of the 'pgrow' GDB command.  Of
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   course, you need first to make sure the cursor is on the screen line which
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   you want to investigate.  If you have set a breakpoint in 'Fredraw_display',
   as advised above, move cursor to that line before invoking 'redraw-display'.
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 . If the problem happens only at some specific buffer position or for some
   specific rarely-used character, you can make your breakpoints conditional on
   those values.  The display engine maintains the buffer and string position
   it is processing in the it->current member; for example, the buffer
   character position is in it->current.pos.charpos.  Most redisplay functions
   accept a pointer to a 'struct it' object as their argument, so you can make
   conditional breakpoints in those functions, like this:

    (gdb) break x_produce_glyphs if it->current.pos.charpos == 1234

   For conditioning on the character being displayed, use it->c or

 . You can also make the breakpoints conditional on what object is being used
   for producing glyphs for display.  The it->method member has the value
   GET_FROM_BUFFER for displaying buffer contents, GET_FROM_STRING for
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   displaying a Lisp string (e.g., a 'display' property or an overlay string),
   GET_FROM_IMAGE for displaying an image, etc.  See 'enum it_method' in
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   dispextern.h for the full list of values.

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** Following longjmp call.

Recent versions of glibc (2.4+?) encrypt stored values for setjmp/longjmp which
prevents GDB from being able to follow a longjmp call using 'next'.  To
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disable this protection you need to set the environment variable

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** Using GDB in Emacs

Debugging with GDB in Emacs offers some advantages over the command line (See
the GDB Graphical Interface node of the Emacs manual).  There are also some
features available just for debugging Emacs:

1) The command gud-print is available on the tool bar (the 'p' icon) and
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   allows the user to print the s-expression of the variable at point,
   in the GUD buffer.

2) Pressing 'p' on a component of a watch expression that is a lisp object
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   in the speedbar prints its s-expression in the GUD buffer.

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3) The STOP button on the tool bar and the Signals->STOP menu-bar menu
   item are adjusted so that they send SIGTSTP instead of the usual
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4) The command gud-pv has the global binding 'C-x C-a C-v' and prints the
   value of the lisp variable at point.

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** Debugging what happens while preloading and dumping Emacs

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Debugging 'temacs' is useful when you want to establish whether a
problem happens in an undumped Emacs.  To run 'temacs' under a
debugger, type "gdb temacs", then start it with 'r -batch -l loadup'.
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If you need to debug what happens during dumping, start it with 'r -batch -l
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loadup dump' instead.  For debugging the bootstrap dumping, use "loadup
bootstrap" instead of "loadup dump".
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If temacs actually succeeds when running under GDB in this way, do not
try to run the dumped Emacs, because it was dumped with the GDB
breakpoints in it.

** If you encounter X protocol errors

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The X server normally reports protocol errors asynchronously,
so you find out about them long after the primitive which caused
the error has returned.

To get clear information about the cause of an error, try evaluating
(x-synchronize t).  That puts Emacs into synchronous mode, where each
Xlib call checks for errors before it returns.  This mode is much
slower, but when you get an error, you will see exactly which call
really caused the error.

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You can start Emacs in a synchronous mode by invoking it with the -xrm
option, like this:

    emacs -xrm "emacs.synchronous: true"

Setting a breakpoint in the function 'x_error_quitter' and looking at
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the backtrace when Emacs stops inside that function will show what
code causes the X protocol errors.

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Some bugs related to the X protocol disappear when Emacs runs in a
synchronous mode.  To track down those bugs, we suggest the following

  - Run Emacs under a debugger and put a breakpoint inside the
    primitive function which, when called from Lisp, triggers the X
    protocol errors.  For example, if the errors happen when you
    delete a frame, put a breakpoint inside 'Fdelete_frame'.
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  - When the breakpoint breaks, step through the code, looking for
    calls to X functions (the ones whose names begin with "X" or
    "Xt" or "Xm").

  - Insert calls to 'XSync' before and after each call to the X
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    functions, like this:

       XSync (f->output_data.x->display_info->display, 0);

    where 'f' is the pointer to the 'struct frame' of the selected
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    frame, normally available via XFRAME (selected_frame).  (Most
    functions which call X already have some variable that holds the
    pointer to the frame, perhaps called 'f' or 'sf', so you shouldn't
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    need to compute it.)

    If your debugger can call functions in the program being debugged,
    you should be able to issue the calls to 'XSync' without recompiling
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    Emacs.  For example, with GDB, just type:

       call XSync (f->output_data.x->display_info->display, 0)

    before and immediately after the suspect X calls.  If your
    debugger does not support this, you will need to add these pairs
    of calls in the source and rebuild Emacs.

    Either way, systematically step through the code and issue these
    calls until you find the first X function called by Emacs after
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    which a call to 'XSync' winds up in the function
    'x_error_quitter'.  The first X function call for which this
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    happens is the one that generated the X protocol error.

  - You should now look around this offending X call and try to figure
    out what is wrong with it.

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** If Emacs causes errors or memory leaks in your X server

You can trace the traffic between Emacs and your X server with a tool
like xmon, available at

Xmon can be used to see exactly what Emacs sends when X protocol errors
happen.  If Emacs causes the X server memory usage to increase you can
use xmon to see what items Emacs creates in the server (windows,
graphical contexts, pixmaps) and what items Emacs delete.  If there
are consistently more creations than deletions, the type of item
and the activity you do when the items get created can give a hint where
to start debugging.

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** If the symptom of the bug is that Emacs fails to respond

Don't assume Emacs is 'hung'--it may instead be in an infinite loop.
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To find out which, make the problem happen under GDB and stop Emacs
once it is not responding.  (If Emacs is using X Windows directly, you
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can stop Emacs by typing C-z at the GDB job.  On MS-Windows, run Emacs
as usual, and then attach GDB to it -- that will usually interrupt
whatever Emacs is doing and let you perform the steps described

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Then try stepping with 'step'.  If Emacs is hung, the 'step' command
won't return.  If it is looping, 'step' will return.
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If this shows Emacs is hung in a system call, stop it again and
examine the arguments of the call.  If you report the bug, it is very
important to state exactly where in the source the system call is, and
what the arguments are.

If Emacs is in an infinite loop, try to determine where the loop
starts and ends.  The easiest way to do this is to use the GDB command
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'finish'.  Each time you use it, Emacs resumes execution until it
exits one stack frame.  Keep typing 'finish' until it doesn't
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return--that means the infinite loop is in the stack frame which you
just tried to finish.

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Stop Emacs again, and use 'finish' repeatedly again until you get back
to that frame.  Then use 'next' to step through that frame.  By
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stepping, you will see where the loop starts and ends.  Also, examine
the data being used in the loop and try to determine why the loop does
not exit when it should.

On GNU and Unix systems, you can also trying sending Emacs SIGUSR2,
which, if 'debug-on-event' has its default value, will cause Emacs to
attempt to break it out of its current loop and into the Lisp
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debugger.  (See the node "Debugging" in the ELisp manual for the
details about the Lisp debugger.)  This feature is useful when a
C-level debugger is not conveniently available.
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** If certain operations in Emacs are slower than they used to be, here
is some advice for how to find out why.

Stop Emacs repeatedly during the slow operation, and make a backtrace
each time.  Compare the backtraces looking for a pattern--a specific
function that shows up more often than you'd expect.

If you don't see a pattern in the C backtraces, get some Lisp
backtrace information by typing "xbacktrace" or by looking at Ffuncall
frames (see above), and again look for a pattern.

When using X, you can stop Emacs at any time by typing C-z at GDB.
When not using X, you can do this with C-g.  On non-Unix platforms,
such as MS-DOS, you might need to press C-BREAK instead.

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** If GDB does not run and your debuggers can't load Emacs.

On some systems, no debugger can load Emacs with a symbol table,
perhaps because they all have fixed limits on the number of symbols
and Emacs exceeds the limits.  Here is a method that can be used
in such an extremity.  Do

    nm -n temacs > nmout
    strip temacs
    adb temacs
    :r -l loadup   (or whatever)

It is necessary to refer to the file 'nmout' to convert
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numeric addresses into symbols and vice versa.

It is useful to be running under a window system.
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Then, if Emacs becomes hopelessly wedged, you can create another
window to do kill -9 in.  kill -ILL is often useful too, since that
may make Emacs dump core or return to adb.
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** Debugging incorrect screen updating on a text terminal.
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To debug Emacs problems that update the screen wrong, it is useful
to have a record of what input you typed and what Emacs sent to the
screen.  To make these records, do

(open-dribble-file "~/.dribble")
(open-termscript "~/.termscript")

The dribble file contains all characters read by Emacs from the
terminal, and the termscript file contains all characters it sent to
the terminal.  The use of the directory '~/' prevents interference
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with any other user.

If you have irreproducible display problems, put those two expressions
in your ~/.emacs file.  When the problem happens, exit the Emacs that
you were running, kill it, and rename the two files.  Then you can start
another Emacs without clobbering those files, and use it to examine them.
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An easy way to see if too much text is being redrawn on a terminal is to
evaluate '(setq inverse-video t)' before you try the operation you think
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will cause too much redrawing.  This doesn't refresh the screen, so only
newly drawn text is in inverse video.
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** Debugging LessTif

If you encounter bugs whereby Emacs built with LessTif grabs all mouse
and keyboard events, or LessTif menus behave weirdly, it might be
helpful to set the 'DEBUGSOURCES' and 'DEBUG_FILE' environment
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variables, so that one can see what LessTif was doing at this point.
For instance

  export DEBUGSOURCES="RowColumn.c:MenuShell.c:MenuUtil.c"
  export DEBUG_FILE=/usr/tmp/LESSTIF_TRACE
  emacs &
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causes LessTif to print traces from the three named source files to a
file in '/usr/tmp' (that file can get pretty large).  The above should
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be typed at the shell prompt before invoking Emacs, as shown by the
last line above.
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Running GDB from another terminal could also help with such problems.
You can arrange for GDB to run on one machine, with the Emacs display
appearing on another.  Then, when the bug happens, you can go back to
the machine where you started GDB and use the debugger from there.

** Debugging problems which happen in GC

The array 'last_marked' (defined on alloc.c) can be used to display up
to 500 last objects marked by the garbage collection process.
Whenever the garbage collector marks a Lisp object, it records the
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pointer to that object in the 'last_marked' array, which is maintained
as a circular buffer.  The variable 'last_marked_index' holds the
index into the 'last_marked' array one place beyond where the pointer
to the very last marked object is stored.
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The single most important goal in debugging GC problems is to find the
Lisp data structure that got corrupted.  This is not easy since GC
changes the tag bits and relocates strings which make it hard to look
at Lisp objects with commands such as 'pr'.  It is sometimes necessary
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to convert Lisp_Object variables into pointers to C struct's manually.

Use the 'last_marked' array and the source to reconstruct the sequence
that objects were marked.  In general, you need to correlate the
values recorded in the 'last_marked' array with the corresponding
stack frames in the backtrace, beginning with the innermost frame.
Some subroutines of 'mark_object' are invoked recursively, others loop
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over portions of the data structure and mark them as they go.  By
looking at the code of those routines and comparing the frames in the
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backtrace with the values in 'last_marked', you will be able to find
connections between the values in 'last_marked'.  E.g., when GC finds
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a cons cell, it recursively marks its car and its cdr.  Similar things
happen with properties of symbols, elements of vectors, etc.  Use
these connections to reconstruct the data structure that was being
marked, paying special attention to the strings and names of symbols
that you encounter: these strings and symbol names can be used to grep
the sources to find out what high-level symbols and global variables
are involved in the crash.

Once you discover the corrupted Lisp object or data structure, grep
the sources for its uses and try to figure out what could cause the
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corruption.  If looking at the sources doesn't help, you could try
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setting a watchpoint on the corrupted data, and see what code modifies
it in some invalid way.  (Obviously, this technique is only useful for
data that is modified only very rarely.)

It is also useful to look at the corrupted object or data structure in
a fresh Emacs session and compare its contents with a session that you
are debugging.

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** Debugging problems with non-ASCII characters

If you experience problems which seem to be related to non-ASCII
characters, such as \201 characters appearing in the buffer or in your
files, set the variable byte-debug-flag to t.  This causes Emacs to do
some extra checks, such as look for broken relations between byte and
character positions in buffers and strings; the resulting diagnostics
might pinpoint the cause of the problem.

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** Debugging the TTY (non-windowed) version

The most convenient method of debugging the character-terminal display
is to do that on a window system such as X.  Begin by starting an
xterm window, then type these commands inside that window:

  $ tty
  $ echo $TERM

Let's say these commands print "/dev/ttyp4" and "xterm", respectively.

Now start Emacs (the normal, windowed-display session, i.e. without
the '-nw' option), and invoke "M-x gdb RET emacs RET" from there.  Now
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type these commands at GDB's prompt:

  (gdb) set args -nw -t /dev/ttyp4
  (gdb) set environment TERM xterm
  (gdb) run

The debugged Emacs should now start in no-window mode with its display
directed to the xterm window you opened above.

Similar arrangement is possible on a character terminal by using the
'screen' package.

On MS-Windows, you can start Emacs in its own separate console by
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setting the new-console option before running Emacs under GDB:

  (gdb) set new-console 1
  (gdb) run

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** Running Emacs built with malloc debugging packages

If Emacs exhibits bugs that seem to be related to use of memory
allocated off the heap, it might be useful to link Emacs with a
special debugging library, such as Electric Fence (a.k.a. efence) or
GNU Checker, which helps find such problems.

Emacs compiled with such packages might not run without some hacking,
because Emacs replaces the system's memory allocation functions with
its own versions, and because the dumping process might be
incompatible with the way these packages use to track allocated
memory.  Here are some of the changes you might find necessary:

  - Edit configure, to set system_malloc and CANNOT_DUMP to "yes".
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  - Configure with a different --prefix= option.  If you use GCC,
    version 2.7.2 is preferred, as some malloc debugging packages
    work a lot better with it than with 2.95 or later versions.

  - Type "make" then "make -k install".

  - If required, invoke the package-specific command to prepare
    src/temacs for execution.

  - cd ..; src/temacs

(Note that this runs 'temacs' instead of the usual 'emacs' executable.
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This avoids problems with dumping Emacs mentioned above.)

Some malloc debugging libraries might print lots of false alarms for
bitfields used by Emacs in some data structures.  If you want to get
rid of the false alarms, you will have to hack the definitions of
these data structures on the respective headers to remove the ':N'
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bitfield definitions (which will cause each such field to use a full

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** How to recover buffer contents from an Emacs core dump file

The file etc/emacs-buffer.gdb defines a set of GDB commands for
recovering the contents of Emacs buffers from a core dump file.  You
might also find those commands useful for displaying the list of
buffers in human-readable format from within the debugger.

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This file is part of GNU Emacs.

GNU Emacs is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
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the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or
(at your option) any later version.
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GNU Emacs is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
along with GNU Emacs.  If not, see <>.

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Local variables:
mode: outline
paragraph-separate: "[ 	]*$"